Remembering Bob Coleman

Bob Coleman
"Architectural Details, Bowen Building" by Bob Coleman
February 04, 2021

Bob ColemanIt is with deep sadness that we share the news of the passing of Bob Coleman–a photographer, illustrator, graphic designer and art director–who was both an alumnus and an influential instructor at the George Washington University from 1985 to 2006.


“Bob was more than a professor,” remembers former student, Lauren Potischman (née Jacobs, BBA Marketing '04). “He was a mentor, a friend, a father figure and truly one of a kind. He was invested in his students’ success, making sure that he formed a special connection with each of us.”


Students from multiple institutions–including the George Washington University, the Universities at Shady Grove and University of Maryland–remembered Coleman’s mentorship and passion for teaching.


“The most impactful thing I learned from him, that I still think about in my daily professional life, isn't related to art,” remembers Barrie Gordon Gruner (B.A. Visual Communications '04). “Bob was so genuinely and unapologetically himself, never straying because of society’s norms.”


Coleman was a lifelong resident of Montgomery County, Maryland. He grew up in Silver Spring and lived in Montgomery Village. He graduated from Montgomery College in Rockville with an Associate of Arts degree in Studio Art.


He then majored in fine arts and printmaking at the George Washington University, graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Coleman completed studies at GW in 1985 with a Master of Fine Arts from the visual communications program. After graduating, he was both a part-time and full-time instructor in graphic design, illustration and computer graphics at GW for the next twenty years. Coleman also served for 35 years in the federal government, retiring in 2002, working as an illustrator, graphic designer and art director.


Coleman passed away on October 25, 2020, at age 71. He fell ill with COVID-19 in late September, and spent nearly a month in the hospital before he died, Bethesda Beat reported.


His colleagues and students, whose lives he changed, remembered his approachability, his kindness and the lessons he taught them beyond the classroom.


“I consider myself one of the lucky ones, to have been taught by one of the greatest,” Potischman remembers. “I will never forget his kind heart, big laugh, passion for teaching, and the way he motivated and inspired me daily.”


She also shared fond memories of bonding with classmates and Coleman outside of class.


“I remember evenings spent drinking beers together at Bertucci’s with classmates or spending weekends in the graphics lab not because I needed to, but because I wanted to," Potischman said. "We had many conversations about his dog Beau, his wife and children. He taught me the love of design and photography.”


“We'd regularly go to Bertucci's or Lindy’s for beers, and sometimes his wife Kate would join us,” Gruner also remembers. “I quickly learned that the Bob he was in front of the class was the same Bob she married. He treated his students like adults. He built up my confidence in the creative world and valued my perspective, showing me that I could have a career and be respected by those with more experience than me.”


“Bob inspired me to become a better designer and to constantly challenge myself,” Potischman adds. Coleman also recommended her for her first job at an agency, which changed the trajectory of her career. “The walls of our house have his photographic imprint on them, and I will think of him always.”


We welcome students, faculty, and friends to share their memories of Bob Coleman. Messages of condolence can be shared with his family on Echovita. In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to the Bob Coleman Memorial Scholarship fund at the University of Maryland (select the Coleman fund in the drop-down menu) or to scholarships for Corcoran students in Bob’s memory. To do so, please add a comment with your donation: "Corcoran Scholarship Funding in Memory of Bob Coleman.”


See some of Coleman’s photography here. To read more about his art and impact, read the Bethesda Beat’s coverage.